Vikings bond while '10 grad learns the law

Student's persistence in the summer job hunt is rewarded

August  25, 2011

Editor's note: John Malm '88 earned his Juris Doctor in 1993 from Valparaiso University School of Law. He is a trial lawyer with his own firm based in Naperville, Ill. In 2010, Tim Peterson graduated as part of Augustana's sesquicentennial class, double majoring in political science and history. He attends The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Ill., and plans to take the bar exam in 2013.

peterson and malm
Tim Peterson '10 and John Malm '88

First-year law student Tim Peterson '10 began looking for summer work in the legal field early last spring. With little luck locating opportunities in Chicago, Peterson focused his search in the western suburbs of Chicago, closer to his home. His initial research identified The Law Offices of John J. Malm, P.C. as a prospect. The firm wasn't offering a position, but that didn't deter Peterson. Hoping to make a strong impression (although lacking an appointment for an interview), he dressed in a suit and tie and delivered his résumé in person. He did not know Malm graduated from Augustana in 1988.

Malm's receptionist cordially accepted Peterson's résumé, thanked him for his interest in the firm and sent him on his way. Peterson admits he was a little disappointed.

But when Malm later read the résumé, he noticed that the ambitious law student was an Augustana graduate.

"As a small firm, we do not receive many résumés by hand-delivery," Malm said. "Having not posted an available position, I was surprised by Tim's visit. What was impressive to me was not only his academic achievements, but also his determination to find work. With a busy summer trial calendar, I decided we should give him a chance. We called him later the same day and asked him to return for an interview."

During the interview, the two bonded over their Augustana memories and their favorite places in the Quad Cities. "We talked about which dorms we lived in, the buildings on campus, and places in the Quad Cities where we liked to eat," Peterson recalled.

Malm admits Peterson's connection to Augustana was significant in his decision to hire a first-year law student at all. "As alumni, we are called upon from time to time to reflect on what Augustana means to each of us, and to contribute in ways that serve the needs of the college," he said. "As an employer, I believe it also serves Augustana for us to consider the needs of fellow alumni. Tim's unexpected appearance at my firm presented that opportunity for me-and for Tim."

Finding a calling

Last May, Peterson started working as a law clerk in Malm's office. Within the first few days, he knew without a doubt that a law firm was where he was meant to be.

"At Augie, they were always talking about finding your calling," Peterson said. "I never really understood how I would know when that had happened. I had an interest in politics and law starting in high school that only grew stronger at Augustana, but I never classified it as more than that. It just seemed like the best option for a career. However, once I began working for John, I knew without a doubt that my calling was in the legal profession, working in a law firm. It has been an experience I'll never forget. I've attended depositions and court hearings, sat in a judge's chambers to participate in settlement negotiations, interviewed new clients, filed complaints and motions, and I've enjoyed every minute of it."

At one point, Peterson was assigned to assist Malm in preparing for a jury trial in a highly publicized injury case, representing a woman who had suffered disfiguring burn injuries. "As we prepared for trial, there were many late nights," Malm recalled. "Tim was able to contribute, especially through his analytical writing. He is an excellent writer-a skill that is demanded of each of us as trial lawyers."

Peterson attributes his writing ability and critical thinking skills to his Augustana professors. "Although I was not an English major, I did take several writing classes because I knew they would be useful in the future," he said. "Writing a Senior Inquiry for both political science and history greatly improved my skills as a writer. Professors like Dr. Stephen Warren and Dr. Mariano Magalhães do not let you get away with lazy thinking. Their classes taught me to make connections between the things I read in order to have a better understanding of the subject matter."

Malm recalls the day the two were working together when Peterson received an invitation to join the law review — an academic honor that Malm, too, had received as a law student. "We have a lot in common," Malm said. "When he returns to law school, I know I will miss having him here at the firm."